Lama Anagarika Govinda. The Way of the White Clouds. Berkeley: Shambala Publishing, 1970.
“It is a place where heaven and earth meet on equal terms, where the landscape has the vastness and rhythm of the open sea, and the sky the depth of universal space. It is a place where you feel near to the celestial bodies, where sun and moon are your neighbors and the stars your friends.” (9)
“I never realized it as strongly as on this occasion that the absence of the spoken word, the silent communion with things and people, which was forced upon me due to the lack of a common language, can bring about a deeper awareness and a directness of experience which generally is drowned by the incessant chatter under which human beings hide their fear of meeting each other in the nakedness of their natural being.” (14)
“I realized that religious truths and spiritual life are more a matter of transcending our habitual consciousness than of changing our opinions or building our convictions on the strength of intellectual arguments and syllogisms, of the laws of reason, which will never lead us beyond the circle of what is already known in the form of ready made concepts; the cut-and-dried bricks with which we have constructed the present world of ‘material reality’ and ‘common sense.’ These have always been the obstacles of creative vision..” (16)
- we are unconscious creators first; reasoned logicians, eloquent speakers, detailed scientists second. We pick up crayola markers and flail blindly with them long before we pick up calculators and spreadsheets. Direct experience is always first, followed by our critique of it, our compartmentalization of it. The problem arises when we ascribe “Life” to the latter rather than to the former.
“Just as the mystery of love can only unfold when it is withdrawn from the eyes of the crowd, and as a lover will not discuss the beloved with outsiders, in the same way the mystery of inner transformation can only take place if the secret force of its symbols is hidden from the profane eyes and the idle talk of the world.” (37)
- Time in the wilderness is just such a withdrawal. But it is also a place where the false dualities of “inner” and “outer” become menacingly and subtly apparent, which inevitably brings on the welcome and familiar sense of primal euphoria.
“Up and up the caravan went, through one cloud layer after another. What was yesterday our sky, lay today at our feet like a vast turbulent ocean, at the bottom of which the human world was hidden.. It was like a journey through different world-planes into the Far Beyond. The ascent seemed to have no end – indeed, even the sky was no more the limit! – and each stage revealed a new type of landscape, climate, and vegetation.” (41)
“In spite of the feeling of smallness in the vastness and grandeur of the mountain landscape, in spite of the knowledge of human limitations and dependence on the whims of wind and weather, water and grazing-grounds, food and fuel and other material circumstances, I had never felt a sense of greater freedom and independence. I realized more than ever how narrow and circumscribed our so-called civilized life is, how much we pay for the security of a sheltered life by way of freedom and real independence of thought and action.” (60)
When every detail of our life is planned and regulated, and every fraction of time determined beforehand, then the last trace of our boundless and timeless being, in which the freedom of our soul exists, will be suffocated. This freedom does not consist of being able to ‘do what we want,’ it is neither arbitrariness nor waywardness, nor the thirst for adventures, but the capacity to accept the unexpected, the unthought-of situations of life, good as well as bad, with an open mind; it is the capacity to adapt oneself to the infinite variety of conditions without losing confidence in the deeper connections between the inner and outer world. It is the spontaneous certainty of being neither bound by space nor time, the ability to experience the fullness of both without clinging to any of their aspects, without trying to take possession of them by way of arbitrary fragmentation.” (60)
“The machine-made time of modern man has not made him the master but the slave of time; the more he tries to ‘save’ time, the less he possesses it. It is like trying to catch a river in a bucket..” (60)
- Fromm, Hall, Shepard
“The great rhythm of nature pervades everything, and man is woven into it with mind and body. Even his imagination does not belong so much to the individual as to the soul of the landscape..” (62)
“Solitude itself seems to produce a similar effect as certain meditational or yogic exercises: it automatically removes distraction by outer influences and thus creates a state of dwelling within oneself, a state of natural concentration. Whatever though-object comes before one’s mind, it takes on a greater reality and plasticity and can be held and contemplated with full attention. The past is telescoped into the present and the present shows itself not as a dividing line between a past that had died and a future that has not yet been born but as a single aspect of the co-existent and continuous body of living experience in four dimensions.” (71)
“In the detachment of this solitude I could see how little in our life depends on brain-made decisions and how much on apparently insignificant events and impressions which reveal the inner direction of our essential being. We generally look upon these insignificant impressions and events as ‘accidents,’ happening without apparent cause or connection with ourselves, without noticing that these impressions and events gained importance merely because they set free forces which were at work in us all along, but which we did not notice because our intellectually thought-out plans overshadowed the steady flow or our inner life and the driving forces of our soul.” (71)
“Lung-gom-pa” Trance Walker (80)
The three marks of existence: “anicca” (impermanence), “dukkha” (suffering), “anatta” (egolessness, no-self). (136)
“When Mind has no place where it can stop (and become limited) the Mahamudra [‘the Great Attitude’] is present. By cultivating such an attitude one attains supreme enlightenment.” (150)
“..as Lin Yutang rightly says: ‘The human desire to see only one phase of truth which we happen to perceive, and to develop and elevate it into a perfect logical system, is one reason why our philosophy is bound to grow stranger to life.” (151)
Monuments as “a will towards eternity.” (179)
“To the Tibetan there is no difference between the realm of nature and the realm of mind.” (194)
- Our unconscious is like all the landscapes of all the world, and our waking mind (ego) is what we are currently looking at at any particular moment.
“An immense peace lies over this divine landscape and fills the heart of the pilgrim, making him immune to all personal concerns, because, as in a dream, he feels one with his vision. He has gained the equanimity of one who knows that nothing can happen to him other than what belongs to him already from eternity.” (208)
- "by virtue of what you always are, have been, and will be, there is no need whatsoever to defend yourself or prove yourself," A Watts, intro to Secret Oral Teaching in Tibetan Buddhist Sects.
“Manjusri embodies the transcendental knowledge that death is ultimately illusion and that those who identify themselves with the ultimate reality, the plenum-void (sunyata) of their inner center, overcome death and are liberated from the chains of samsara, the rounds of rebirths in the six realms of delusion.” (244)
“They certainly were the merriest group we had ever travelled with, and the young women among them seemed to be as tireless as the men, in spite of carrying heavy loads all through the day, over ice and boulder-strewn ground. They all slept on the snow, as if it was a featherbed, with no other protection than two sheepskins (the hair turned inside). Between those skins most of them slept naked, with their clothes rolled up as a pillow, a custom which we had also observed in other regions of Tibet…Probably they found it rather indecent of us that we went to sleep with all our clothing on.” (265)